Discriminating contact in lumen with a moving flexible digit using fibre Bragg grating sensing elements

Betty Tam, Xianghong Ma, David J. Webb, David J. Holding, Peter N. Brett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Minimal access procedures in surgery offer benefits of reduced patient recovery time and less pain, yet for the surgeon the task is more complex, as both tactile and visual perception of the working site is reduced. In this paper, experimental evidence of the performance of a novel sensing system embedded in an actuated flexible digit element is presented. The digit represents a steerable tip element of devices such as endoscopes and laparoscopes. This solution is able to discriminate types of contact and tissue interaction, and to feed back this information with the shape of the flexible digit. As an alternative to this information, force level, force distribution, and other quantifiable descriptors can also be evaluated. These can be used to aid perception in processes such as navigation and investigation of tissues through palpation. The solution is pragmatic, and by virtue of its efficient mechanical construction and a polymer construction, it offers opportunities for a disposable element with suitability for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other scanning environments. By using only four photonics sensing elements, full perception of tissue contact and the shape of the actuated digit can be described in the feedback of this information. The distributive sensory method applied to the sensory signals relies on the coupled values of the sensory data transients of the four deployed sensing elements to discriminate tissue interaction directly in near real time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-774
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2010


  • fibre Bragg grating
  • optical sensor
  • minimal invasive surgery
  • lumen contact discrimination


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